I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
In part 1 of my teaching on “The Ministry of Nurture,” we looked at the history of the word “mentor” and found its origins in Greek Mythology. We saw that its roots were in Homer’s famous epics, the Iliad and Odyssey. There we saw how the Greek goddess, Athena, would sometimes take the form of Mentor to give advice to Odysseus or his son Telemachus.
Like so many young men today, Telemachus had a life-long struggle with his masculine identity. That’s because he was primarily raised by his mother and nurse – who largely sheltered him from the pursuit of his masculine identity. So Telemachus’ primary role in the epic is his “rite of passage” from childhood to manhood – or his transformation from being a boy to becoming a “man.” But by the end of his story, you are still left wondering if he has truly become a man.
Similarly, when you look at the lives of many incomplete adults today, you see the “Telemachus Syndrome.” You are left wondering the same thing about their partial transformation from adolescence to manhood or womanhood. Their perennial insecurities and immaturities painfully testify to their incomplete transition from childhood to adulthood. Because of a lack of mentoring when they were a child, their emotional growth was stunted. As a result, a large part of their emotions has remained forever adolescent. They have never been able to “put away childish things,” to quote the Apostle Paul. They have remained a life-long child in a grown-up body.
So insecure, immature, and irresponsible behavior are unmistakable signs of stunted emotional growth. They are the sad and painful evidences of a life that was never properly mentored. Without mature adult models and mentors to guide them, they never found the true “rite of passage” from childhood into adulthood. So they remain perennial adolescent in their beliefs and behavior.
Sadly then, we do not have a clear “rite of passage” for adolescence in America. There are no clearly marked trails saying: “This way from childhood to adulthood.” On life’s journey, there are precious few “highways to holiness” – rather than “by-ways to happiness.” Life is fraught with many detours and dead-ends that keep you from reaching our spiritual and emotional destination. Too many light-weights have walked before us, leaving no deep, secure footprints to follow on to maturity.
So as a person grows up in fickled, fractured and fragmented America, they are often hard-pressed to find examples of mature manhood or womanhood to emulate. So children and young people end up “imitating imitations.” As a result, we have a society largely composed of masculine and feminine counterfeits. On life’s journey, they never found the “rite of passage” from childhood to adulthood.
But there are societies and cultures that do have a more clearly defined route of transformation from being a child to becoming a man or woman. They have some age-old “tradition of the elders” that helps initiate adulthood. There is a clearly delineated trail to follow from childhood to adulthood – with little or no provision for a prolonged adolescence. Both the masculine and feminine footprints before them are deep and easy to follow. As a result, few of their children get detoured or lost in an adolescent no-man’s land. Everyone is progressively prepared and expected to make their own “rite of passage” into manhood or womanhood. And there is usually a strong spiritual and social component to this transition.
The Jews have a spiritual and social “rite of passage” for their sons and daughters around the age of 13. It is called a “Bar-Mitzva” for boys and a “Bat-Mitzva” for girls. After that rite of passage – that they have been preparing for since childhood, they now enter the “age of responsibility and accountability.” From that point on they are considered adults – and are supposed to act like it.
Pastoral tribal groups I work with like the Massai, Samburu, Rendille and Pokot also have a clear “rite of passage” into manhood and womanhood. It is at their circumcision around the age of 15 to 18. From that time on the young men are called “Morans,” or warriors, and the girls are “young women” – and they each dress and act distinctly different than when they were children. From that time on they are expected to take on more and more adult responsibilities.
If I had time and space, I could point out other cultures – ancient and contemporary, that have clear “rites of passage” from childhood to adulthood. But the BIG QUESTION is this: “Where is the ‘rite of passage’ in our American Culture?” When exactly is our “transitional time” out of childhood into adulthood? Sadly, it doesn’t exist. Only modern man has this prolonged period between childhood and adulthood that we call adolescence. And tragically, it seems to be getting longer and longer – rather than shorter! Adolescence has become this indefinable time period where young people have more and more freedom – and less and less responsibility. They increasingly have the body of an adult, but not the maturity that hopefully comes with years of experience living life.
But exactly what is adolescence? What is the real meaning of this time from “puberty to personhood?” It comes from the Latin word, adolescens, meaning to “come to maturity; to increase; to grow up.” It is from a linguistic root meaning “to feed, sustain, nourish.” Get the picture? The only way we will “grow up” from puberty to authentic masculine or feminine personhood is if we were “fed, sustained and nourished” as children. With the increasing fragmentation of the American family, it is obvious that this “Ministry of Nurture” has not taken place in the lives of most children. As a result, they become perpetual adolescence!
So increasingly in our western culture, our young people are allowed to live almost endlessly in an emotional “no man’s land” between childhood and adulthood. Many have freedoms, affluence and mobility never known by young people in other periods of history. And they certainly enjoy a level of living totally unknown by children and young people in the Two-Thirds World. Many go from fad to fad and from one teenage sub-culture to another trying to “find themselves.” Others become “professional students” who keep extending their educational pursuits from one degree to another – all in the hopes of discovering who they are and what they want to do in life that will make them “happy.” Most never find it. So they opt for the “road to success” rather than the “route to significance.”
Sadly, in this state of identify confusion, many get married to someone of the opposite sex who has also not “found themselves.” Others, fearing marriage – because mom and dad’s marriage did not make it, just begin to co-habit. Usually it is with someone of the opposite sex. Some however, opt for a same-sex relationship. But either way, a double-drowning results! That’s because you have “two fleas and no dog!” You have two “blood-suckers” drawing the life out of each other. In their radical emotional neediness, they latch onto each other like two human leeches. Each desperately tries to draw from the other a level of nurturing they never got growing up. Without enough spiritual or emotional blood to sustain the relationship, it soon shrivels up and dies a premature death.
So millions of our Twenty-First Century young people are suffering from the dis-ease of prolonged adolescence. Our society has not given them a clear path to follow that will take them from childhood to adulthood. So without mature mentors in their lives, they are set adrift to try and find that illusive land called adulthood – largely on their own. And if they do get any guidance, it is usually from their peers – who are also traveling without a road map or compass. Then to paraphrase Jesus: “When a blind teenager leads another blind teenager, you get two in the adolescent ditch rather than one!”
Without clear mentoring, many young people desperately try and make this “rite of passage” on their own. They try to “prove themselves” to others that they have arrived. That they are now a man or a woman! But most of all, they are trying to prove it to themselves. They are desperately trying to convince themselves that they have arrived…that they are grown-up…that they are mature…that they are now a man or woman.
Different teenagers seek their own “rite of passage” in different ways. Some feel they have “become a man or woman” when they get smashed on alcohol for the first time. Others when they smoke their first joint or snort their first coke. Or when they have “body piercing” on their ears, eyes, nose, mouth, tongue, nipple – or other unmentionable body parts! Some seek to make an adult statement by getting their first tattoo on their arm, neck, butt – or south of their naval! For others it is a “hazing” at their college fraternity or sorority. Some young men and women join the army to find their manhood or womanhood. After all, the Army or Marines will “make a man out of you! Others try and find their adult identity through gang-banging and violence. But statistics show that millions of young people try and find their masculinity and femininity in bed. Movies and music have screamed to them that this is where the real “rite of passage” takes place. And they royally “screw-up” their lives in the process – as well as the lives of the ones they have sex with.
But the principle is this: “It takes masculinity to bestow masculinity. It takes femininity to bestow femininity.” It is blatantly obvious that immaturity cannot bestow maturity. It is one of the basic scientific principles of life that “like begets like.” It is an irrefutable law of nature that “everything reproduces after its own kind.” That’s just the way God wound up this universe. So the bottom line is this: “Immature young people cannot bestow maturity on each other.” That can only come from mature mentors in their lives – beginning with their parents.
So the illusive virtues of adulthood can only be mentored in us by others who are more mature than we are. And at the end of the day, manhood and womanhood are more caught than taught. You do not learn maleness or femaleness from a book. You do not learn it from “imitating imitations.” You do not learn it from other immature peers. You learn it by reading it “close-up-and-personal” in the life of others – starting with your father and mother.
With those thoughts in mind, let me give you some very practical steps in the mentoring process. As I said in my first article, I want to look at how you spell-out mentoring in your own life and relationships. So let me spell “Mentor” for you as I have come to define the word through my own experience as a parent and pastor. I hope this outline will be helpful to you as it has become to me – and to others I have taught it to. I will give a primary word for each letter – followed by several secondary supporting words. And as you study through this outline, you can probably add some additional words of your own.
“Incarnating Mentoring in Your Life and Ministry”
M = MODELING …Maturity (“Mind, Morals, Marriage, Money, Ministry”) …Motive …Motivation …Meekness …Mysteries …Meditation (“Music & Memorization”) …Miraculous …Ministry (“Mission”)
E = EVANGELISM …Enjoyment …Enthusiasm …Energy …Equipping …Edification …Eating …Expectation …Endurance …Excellence
N = NURTURE …Nature (Name) …Need …Neglect …Nutrition (“Feeding & Reading”) …Negativity …Nuptial
T = TIME (“Together”) …Team (“Temperament & Talent”) …Temper …Transparent …Truth (“Talking, Teaching & Training”) …Touching (“Tough/Tender, Tears”) …Trust …Thankfulness …Thrills …Terminate
O = OWNERSHIP …Observation (“Overseer”) …Openness …Obedience …Order …Opportunity …Opposition …Overcome …Overtime
R = RELATIONSHIP (“Father & Mother”) …Risk …Responsibility …Reading …Repetition …Rebuke …Redeem … Restore …Reward …Release
If you want to hear my brief amplification of these various points, please click on the audio track of this message in our Media section, that I recently taught at the National Youth Worker’s Conference in Indianapolis.
In “Part 3” in this series on Mentoring, I will share the example of two people whom I had the joy of helping to mentor, Duffy and Maggie Robbins – who now have one of the greatest “Ministries of Nurture” with young people I know of.
In His Mentoring Love,
Question: “What if Anna Nicole Smith would have been properly nurtured emotionally and spiritually as a child?
Answer: “We would not be watching the saga of her tragic death in minute detail on the nightly news!”
Ever since the announcement of her tragic death on February 8th in a penthouse room in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida – the circumstances of her life have become an obsession to millions of Americans!” Her story has become a media shark-feeding frenzy! It has all of the ingredients of block-buster viewing ratings because of beauty, sex, money, tragedy and intrigue! As a result of the melodrama of her life, her seductive pictures have dominated almost every newscast since her death was announced – one year before her 40th birthday.
As you well know, the events of her life and death have been the lead stories on most news programs – even taking precedent over the Iraqi War, terrorism and the ’08 Presidential politics.
But HOW and WHY could so many Americans become so fixated on this beautiful little girl who never grew really up – except in her body? What is so alluring about this insecure little girl from Houston, Texas, who lived such a short life in the body of a “blond bombshell?” Would we ever have known about her if she would not have been discovered and exploited by Playboy?
Anna’s birth name was Vickie Lynn Hogan. Like most of us, she was born and raised in relative anonymity. But all of that changed as she grew because of her craving for public attention – and especially the attention of men. This emotional need to arouse the attention of men obviously originated from a father-vacuum in her own life as a little girl. So she developed an unhealthy craving for fame and an insatiable appetite for the public spotlight.
Tragically, because of a lack of proper parental nurturing, Anna Nicole Smith grew up physically – but certainly not emotionally. As a result, her identity was reduced to her painted lips, mascaraed eyes, manicured fingernails, platinum hair and surgery enhanced body! In the process of living off of her ever-changing body, she became little more than a blond, buxom-ed bimbo! What a wasted and sad life! But there for God’s grace could go many of us.
When I saw her biological mother, Vergie Arthur, being interviewed the day Anna died, the commentator ask what Anna had been like as a child. In addition to extolling her natural beauty that was almost evident from childhood, her mother said in passing that: “Anna loved to go to church as a little girl.”
That statement hit me like a bolt of lightening! I was especially jolted because I was speaking at the time at a National Youth Conference in Indianapolis on “Mentoring…The Ministry of Nurture.” I was invited to speak along side NDI alumni, Duffy and Maggie Robbins, whom I had helped mentor when they were in high school and college (More about them later).
So when I heard Anna’s mother say in passing how her daughter loved to go to church as a child – I was stunned. It was not what I was expecting. It was very interesting to me that the commentator also let that comment pass without a single follow-up question – obviously revealing either a total blind spot or a philosophical leftist bias. But while the news interviewer completely missed the significance of that statement about Anna’s early church life – I did not. I could not escape asking myself: “Where did her parents go wrong?”
As I watched the rest of the interview, it was obvious by just looking at the mother that she was a woman who had known much pain, heartache and disappointment in her own life. She too had experienced multiple marriages and subsequent divorces. So she seemed to have a lot of emotional baggage of her own.
Perhaps when Anna was young, her own emotional pain as a mother was so great that she just could not see the growing neediness of her daughter. It’s hard to see either the pain or potential of others around you when our own eyes are focused inwardly on the myriads of unmet needs that are screaming for attention in your own life!
But almost as crucial for me was the related question: “Where did her local church miss the boat in nurturing this very beautiful – but obviously very needy – little girl?” Where were they when she stopped coming to Sunday School? Where were they when she failed her freshman year of High School? Where were they when she became a “drop-out” during her sophomore year – never progressing academically beyond an eighth grade education for the rest of her short life?
While not wanting to be overly critical of her pastor or home church, what an eternal difference would have been made if she had been loved and mentored by some wise, mature pastor’s wife, Sunday School teacher or Youth Director. Perhaps she would not have been seduced by the world so easily. Perhaps she would not have gone as a teenager to the strip clubs in Houston to be an “exotic dancer” to try and prove her femininity. Perhaps she would not have become a center-fold in Playboy Magazine as their 1993 “Playmate of the Year.” Perhaps she would not have married billionaire oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall, who was 63 years her senior – old enough to be her grandfather – much less her father. Perhaps there would not have been a string of marriages and divorces – interspersed with one adulterous relationship after another. Perhaps there would not have been a son born who would also grow up in such a bizarre world that he would end his own life through drugs. Perhaps there would not be another helpless “little rich child” born and made parentless so quickly – who would become the fodder for more legal wrangling and custody battles. Perhaps, perhaps…
But the opportunities to nurture and mentor Anna Nicole Smith are forever gone. But not so with the children in your home, church, school or sphere of influence. You see, it is never too late to begin the “Ministry of Nurture.” And while there are no “pause” or “replay buttons” on the controls of life – you can start mentoring NOW – right where you are in your relationships. Whether with your children, grand children, some church member, a staff member, a business associate, a child from a broken home, or some troubled teenager who feels life has passed him by. If you have the heart, you can begin the life-changing “Ministry of Nurture.”
Since I have spent my life mentoring people – American teenagers at first and now key National pastors, I wanted to share some thoughts and principles about this life-defining subject. I thought it would be an appropriate focus for this very first “blog” on my new personal web site. And since I recently turned 65, it is an appropriate time of reflection about my life and my philosophy of ministry. So I hope it will be a timely study as you honestly examine your own relationships – beginning in your home and church. So whether you are a parent or a pastor, I believe these principles will deepen your impact on both you physical children and spiritual children.
The problem is this: In America today we are seeing a whole generation of young people grow up with little or no parenting or mentoring – just like Anna Nicole Smith. With the increasing fragmentation of the American family through things like divorce, desertion, distraction, deception, drinking, drugs, dissipation, debt – millions of children are growing up basically parentless. Some just do not have parents because of divorce, desertion or death. In either case, there is no one to nurture them. As the old Chinese proverb says: “In a broken nest there are no uncracked eggs.”
Other kids who do live with one or more of their biological parents, are often not getting any significant nurturing and mentoring from their primary care giver. That’s because their parents are often distracted by their own frenetic pursuit of the Great American Dream. And while many do indeed realize many of their dreams – they often prove to be a nightmare for the kids who fall through the cracks in their parent’s dream house! As a result, some school teacher, Youth Director, pastor or friend spends a lot of time trying to put together the pieces of a fragmented, frustrated and fragile life!
So if mentoring is what is needed in both the physical home and spiritual home, what is it? Good question. Let’s begin with a basic definition. Webster says that a mentor is a “loyal friend and wise advisor.”
But mentoring did not begin with Webster. He did not invent the term. To find that origin, we must go back in history a lot further. In fact, all the way back into the pre-history of Greek Mythology. It is there that we find the origin of a Greek deity by the name of “Mentor.” He comes from the Iliad and Odyssey written by the poet, Homer. In this mythology, Mentor was a friend of the Greek hero, Odysseus. Several times in this mythological saga, Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom and craftsmanship, took Mentor’s form to give timely advice to Odysseus. As a result, his very name has become proverbial for a “faithful and wise advisor.”
In addition, Mentor was also a tutor of Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope. And in this Greek Mythology, Telemachus’ part of the story is often portrayed as a “passage from childhood to manhood.”
That reminds us of an important principle: “If people are going to make it from childhood to adulthood, they must have good mentors!” Otherwise, they will forever be little boys and little girls – all dressed up in grown-up bodies – and acting like it! Because of their stunted emotional growth, their immaturities and insecurities will continue to manifest themselves – hurting and scaring the relationships around them.
Obviously planet earth has only seen one perfect example of mentoring. There has only been One “loyal friend and wise advisor,” to quote Webster. There has only been One person who could help each of us make safe “passage from childhood to manhood” – and that is the Lord Jesus.
As you study in depth Christ’s relationships with His disciples, it is a profoundly practical study in mentoring. And it took place in a relatively short time – just three short years. But while He was the perfect Mentor, His mentorees were anything but! They were insecure, self-seeking, double-minded, faithless, faltering, fickled people – just like you and me! I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope – both for myself and for the people I try and mentor! So if Jesus could mentor that lowly lot of twelve men – and the women who followed them – then there is hope for anyone! So let’s briefly see how He did it. Let’s look at the profoundly simple way that Christ mentored people and nurtured relationships. We can sum up Christ’s approach with these verses from Mark’s Gospel:
“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came TO HIM…that they might be WITH HIM and that He might SEND THEM OUT to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:13 – 16).
In these brief verses we see several crucial prepositional phrases. Let me outline them for you – like you used to do in English Class in school…
• “TO HIM” (Mastery)……………Salvation
• “WITH HIM” (Mentoring)………Sanctification
• “BY HIM” (Ministry)…………….Service
I am sorry to say that I never learned those simple principles of ministry in college, seminary or graduate school. I only learned them from carefully studying Christ’s life of mentoring as recorded in the Four Gospels. Frankly, it is not a very impressive approach to ministry. It is not theologically profound. Nor is it academically oriented. Neither is it churchy. And it is certainly not based on large numbers of people.
But this kind of discipleship is relational to the core. It is initially “focused on a few” – not on the masses. It goes for depth rather than breadth. It primarily nurtures the root rather than picks the fruit. It focuses on the internal rather than the external. It is based upon the slow rather than the quick. Mentoring is a life-long cross country marathon – not a hundred yard sprint. But over the long haul, it is transformational from “inside out.” And Jesus proved that you can “turn the world upside-down” – or rather “right-side up” – with just a handful of well nurtured and spiritually mentored men and women!
In my next article we will look more specifically at HOW. We will see how to spell out mentoring in your own life and ministry – whether you are a parent or a pastor…a school teacher or a youth director…a business entrepreneur or a retiree.
I will see you in the next mentoring article…
I am writing this letter to let you know about a “new direction” in my life. Since I turned 65 on December 31, I have stepped down from being CEO of New Directions International. I will continue in travel and ministry as active as ever as the CMO, or Chief Ministry Officer.
This decision has not come quickly or lightly. My wife Patt and I have talked and prayed about this transition for many months. We have also discussed it with our children, our NDI leadership staff, and our Board of Directors. Each one has fully approved this decision. And the NDI Board has also unanimously appointed my son, Joseph, to be the new CEO of NDI beginning January 1, 2007. Obviously I am thrilled over this decision—and have total confidence in the spiritual maturity and organizational abilities that Joseph brings to this position. And since he has grown up in NDI, the assures both our domestic and national partners that the basic DNA of NDI will not change.
So let me share with you from both my head and heart the reasons for this decision…
1. Timing: I believe this is the right “Season of Life” for me to make this move. Even though I do not believe retirement is Biblical, I do strongly believe in the transfer of leadership. For years I have taught in Leadership Seminars about the importance of leadership transition. I believe this is the right season of my life to “pass the baton.” It is also the time in my life to spend more time writing – and writing takes a lot of time. Even though I have always done a lot of writing, it has been more “on the run” and “in between” everything else. But now it is my desire and intention to use a significant portion of the rest of my life to compile and synthesize all of the things that God has taught me through the years. Therefore, it is through my books that I want to leave a written legacy for others – and in doing so bring the greatest spiritual multiplication yet during this last season of my life. God has been so gracious in blessing every season of my life up to this time – and I want this closing season of my life to be my most fruitful, most effective and most influential one yet. Also, because God has blessed Patt and me with 4 wonderful children and 10 grandchildren, I want to be able to spend more time with them – passing on the mantle of serving God through serving others.
2. Team: I believe that we have a strong “Leadership Team” in place at NDI with Robbie Hambright as the COO and Joseph as the CEO. Therefore, my transition from CEO to CMO will be smooth and seamless. Joseph and Robbie, assisted by our competent senior Leadership Team, will continue to effectively run the organization under the guidance of the NDI Board. They have basically been doing this already for several years as I have increased my domestic and international travel. This has freed me up as never before to travel, mentor and do more writing – thereby allowing me to increase my focus on the primary things God has called and gifted me to do. Therefore, my presence and activity are not essential for the daily running of NDI – for which I rejoice! In addition, we now have the best internal leadership team in our staff… the most proactive Board leadership team… the largest external team of NDI Ambassadors… the most generous team of financial supporters – in our NDI history. So in the last few years there has been the greatest multiplication and decentralization of leadership ever – which is always the goal in equipping and empowering other leaders and building a strong organization that is not based around the personality and gifts of one person. More than ever before, there is a wider sense of ownership of the purpose, problems and potential of NDI through our ever-growing internal and external leadership teams.
3. Tradition: Through nearly four decades, NDI has built up a certain “tradition of ministry” that has become our trademark – which is that we are not traditional! Nor are we tradition-bound! Therefore, NDI has always “ministered outside the box” and pioneered new paradigms of ministry and missions. We have always “pushed the parameters” of ministry methodology. While standing firm on the message of the evangelical orthodox message, we have always been flexible in terms of method. So while our message is sacred and must never change, our methodology is not sacred, and must always be open to change as the Spirit directs and as circumstances dictate. Understandably then, much of the “NDI tradition” has been built up around my vision, personality, talents, gifts and calling from the Lord – which tends to be rather dynamic, spontaneous, fluid and flexible. I have always been ready to “take a new direction” by faith at a moment’s notice – and “seize the kairos moment” if I have sensed the Lord’s call in it. Now it is time for a CEO and Leadership Team to give more organizational stability to NDI and develop more depth to the breadth that I have created. I believe this will enhance and enrich the “NDI tradition” that has been established to date.
4. Transition: If this leadership transition is made while I am alive, healthy and spiritually vigorous, it will be less traumatic to the organization internally and externally. In a couple of years NDI will celebrate our “40th Anniversary” as a ministry. By me stepping down before that time, the new CEO and Leadership Team can use that historic ministry milestone to take NDI into this next phase of her existence. This will also answer the increasingly asked question about succession of leadership at NDI. While we have had a good “plan of succession” in place for several years, we have not had a “person of succession” until now. With this decision, we will resolve the leadership transition question for years to come. So it will be more positive and healthy for NDI for me to help make the CEO leadership transition while I am alive – rather than the Board having to make it suddenly in a “crisis atmosphere” after I die.
5. Talents: I think we all know that my natural and supernatural talents are best maximized when I focus on organism rather than organization. So I want to use whatever time the Lord gives me in the future to focus my talents on His priorities for my life – i.e., preaching, teaching, mentoring and writing. In the last few years I have shared this personal conviction with our NDI Board: “In this phase of my life I plan to spend more and more time with fewer and fewer people.” I am going to focus and concentrate the majority of my ministry time with the strategic national leaders and key domestic partners God has given me. I will focus more and more on people who are totally serious about the Great Commission and on being strategic for the Kingdom of God . Men and women who are interested in moving from success to significance. That’s how “multiplication of leadership” takes place.
6. Teaching: For over 3 decades I have taught this basic Biblical principle: “The role of a good servant-leader is to ‘work himself out of a job’ – just like in parenting.” But all over the world, most leaders – secular or spiritual, seek to hold onto the power, prestige and the perks of position until their last dying breath! So I want to “practice what I preach” by incarnating and demonstrating this principle of a godly transference of power. I want to “teach by example” that leadership and influence is not tied to a position or title – but to a heart attitude. I want to show that there is still much life and leadership after stepping down from being the CEO. I think this can be one of my greatest “living lessons” to my national brothers and partners around the world.
7. Travel: With whatever strength and health the Lord gives me in the days ahead, I want my travel to be less diffused and more focused. God has graciously brought GREAT fruit from the diverse kinds of “mission trips” and “mission teams” I have led through the years: evangelistic teams, musical teams, youth teams, vision teams, work teams, ministry teams, medical teams, women’s teams, etc. But with what energy I have left, it is time for me to be much more selective in where I go, what I do, and who I take with me. So I will now focus on more intense times of mentoring through traveling with select people, conducting strategic Leadership Conferences and spending significant time with key national leaders. And because we are seeing an exciting multiplication of mission team leaders, I no longer have to be involved in every trip. More people are going on mission trips now with NDI each year than ever before in history – and I do not lead most of them! So now my mission travel has come full circle. In addition, at Joseph’s wise suggestion, I am now setting aside 3-4 months a year to concentrate on domestic travel for speaking, teaching, networking and fund-raising. Generally speaking they are the months of November, February and July. So this will give me a strategic month in the fall, winter and summer to concentrate on strategic domestic travel and speaking.
8. Treasury: As is the case with most faith ministries, NDI goes through annual times of financial downturn as giving fluctuates. But now I believe that NDI is poised for exponential financial growth as never before. Now we are more equipped organizationally to wisely manage and steward the financial gifts and resources entrusted to us through God’s people. Because the opportunities and needs around the world are so great, I have tended to “give away the farm” on every trip! But now we have a strong financial management team to better receive, distribute and account for the finances God graciously entrusts to us. Often times our “NDI Treasury” gets precariously low! But I assure you that our heavenly treasury is full to over-flowing! For 37 years we have lived and ministered by faith with God as our Source. So our treasury is now more full of righteousness than riches – which is always God’s order. As a ministry, we are rich in relationships, partnerships, experience, talent, technology, integrity, reputation and abiding Kingdom fruit. And with continued wise stewardship and promotion, those virtues will attract the funding we need to continue to grow the ministry of NDI. Through the years, God has allowed us to go through some “lean times” and “testing times” – but that is what builds ministry character, integrity and perseverance. Collectively as a staff, we have obeyed the Word and “sowed abundantly” by faith. As a result, we continue to “reap abundantly” in the spiritual realm (I Cor. 9:6). Therefore, in the months and years ahead I believe we will see God abundantly supply our “NDI Treasury” with greater financial and material resources than we have ever received. Not to build NDI bigger – but so we can strategically deploy more spiritual and material resources for His Kingdom and glory around the world.
9. Trust: Because of 38 years of ministry integrity, we have greater trust and credibility with more people, pastors, businessmen, churches, para-church ministries and organizations than ever before. And by God’s grace, I personally have more credibility with more people than ever before. So I believe I am now poised to be of greater help to NDI than ever before as she makes this very timely and strategic leadership transition. Any one who knows me knows that as long as I have health and strength, I will never “hang up my spurs!” If I have anything to do with it, I will “die with my boots on” at some strategic “cutting edge” where the Kingdom of God is confronting and challenging the kingdom of darkness! I will always be “wild at heart” – seeking a new Extreme Kingdom Adventure for the Lord Jesus! So it is my prayer and desire to stay as active as ever for NDI as CMO. In that servant-leadership capacity I will continue to travel, speak and raise funds for NDI more than ever.
10. Testimony: By God’s grace I have enjoyed a good race up to this point in my life. I have “lived His adventure” for my life to the fullest – and loved every minute of it! So now that I have run well by God’s grace, I want to end well for His glory. I want to “step down” and “step back” at the height of my game for the Lord – so I can pass on the mantle of leadership at a time of strength and success rather than one of weakness or failure. Through the years I have seen so many leaders run well until the closing season of their lives – and then they do something foolish, immature, carnal, stupid, selfish, sinful – and end poorly. They stumble right before the finish line. Then the last years and months of their lives largely negate a long life of effective ministry for the Lord. So brothers and sisters, I intend to finish strong through the power of God’s Spirit, the wisdom of God’s Word and the prayers of God’s people – and leave a positive testimony of God’s amazing grace through a very unlikely, unworthy and unfit leadership vessel!
Well brethren, that about summarizes my decision to step down as CEO. Since I have summarized my motivations in an alliteration of “Ts” – I hope it has not come across as another “sermon or teaching by J.L.!” I did not start writing this letter with that intention – but that’s just the way my homiletic and didactic mind works! Ha!
In closing let me say that I have never been more excited about NDI than right now! I believe we are on the verge of the BIGGEST spiritual and financial breakthrough in our 37 year history! We are poised by God’s Spirit to “go up to the next level” of influence and impact for the Kingdom domestically and internationally. We have a great staff… great Board… great national partners… great Ambassadors… great domestic supporters… great facilities… great equipment and a great reputation. And we have a great new CEO in my son, Joseph!
Partnering with you for His Kingdom and glory in this “new direction” for my life and ministry…